Gov’t’s zero tolerance on illicit drugs reaffirmed

The Youth and Sports minister, Alieu Kebba Jammeh has reaffirmed The Gambia government’s zero tolerance on drugs, and noted that such remains a benchmark in its fight against the menace.

Minister Jammeh made the statement Tuesday in commemoration of this year’s International Youth Day on the theme, “Youth and mental health”. 

The Day is observed on 12th August globally each year. The commemoration aims at raising public awareness and mobilising action in support of young people. Since its inception in 1998, it has been celebrated in diverse ways around the world to highlight the contributions of youths to their societies and the needs and plight of the young people in those societies as well.

Speaking on the theme, the minister said the young people constitute over 63% per cent of the Gambian population, yet too little is known about their mental health status and the psychosocial implications of their daily struggles and interactions. 

“According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, approximately 27,000 people in the Gambia are suffering from a severe mental and/or substance abuse disorder and that a further 91,000 have a mild disorder still requiring treatment (WHO 2004). A greater percentage of these victims are young people who suffer from drug-induced psychosis. 

For example, about 40% of all diagnosis of the patient population at the Tanka Tanka Psychiatric hospital is young people. The causes of mental illness on them are numerous but to name a few, drug misuse and abuse, effects of migration by any means, trauma and accidents, discriminations are among many other factors,” he indicated. 

The migration of young people by any means, he pointed out, continue to be a challenge, noting that government recognises the fact that if not curb, it has both short term and long term implications on the collective socio-economic development. 

He added: “The transition to adulthood is an extremely challenging period of life in which young people are maturing physically, mentally and socially. It’s a critical time in which mental health issues can develop.  We need greater knowledge about the reasons why mental health issues arise at this time, but most importantly, what our individual roles are in promoting a mentally healthy youthful population.”

The minister asserted that over the past decade, a new paradigm has emerged in the mental health field, which recognises the importance of intervening early to maximize recovery. He said the youth mental health paradigm aims to change the way society thinks about the mental health of young people, and to transform and strengthen the mental health system. 

“The Government of The Gambia and partners will continue to support early diagnosis and interventions around prevention and response, and also support the mental health system to adequately respond to the mental health needs of the young people,” he assured. 

The Youth minister said within the 20 years period of this government under the guidance of President Jammeh, young people have been provided numerous opportunities to lead, grow and to realise their fullest potentials in all fields. He noted that the government continues to champion the cause of young people in every development endeavor. 

“Young people recognise and appreciate the immeasurable and immense contribution of His Excellency the president in improving our socio-economic situation as young people,” he said. 

Minister Jammeh indicated that celebrations for this year will take the form of a symposium and donation of items to the Tanka Tanka Psychiatric Hospital. 

“Whilst we celebrate the day, we will remember our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who suffer from mental illness. They need to be loved and sheltered in our homes and be provided the opportunity to seek medical attention from our numerous health facilities,” he concluded.